9 Steps to Prepare a Successful Electronic Document Review Workflow

The success of electronic document reviews begins with preparation: Has your legal team proactively prepared their workflow and developed guidelines that can inform and expedite the review process?

The electronic document review process can be intricate and preparing for these complexities makes it easier to avoid common pitfalls. Taking shortcuts, ignoring best practice, and manually doing the entire process can add lengthy delays and additional expenses to the review.

Here are nine best-practice tactics that all legal teams should consider before starting the document review process:

  1. Choose between Native Review and Image Review based on your purpose

    Electronic document review platforms offer different functionalities to reviewers. The capability you choose will be dependent on the type of electronic document review you are performing.

    Native Review
    If Electronically Stored Information (ESI) is reviewed in its current native source format, it is called Native Review. All software creates documents in the platform’s original format. Native Review allows end-users to view native file content in one platform without launching the original source file application.A PDF file is considered to be a native file – not an image. This common misconception has resulted in challenges during the review. Native files also do not have set page counts, as individual computer settings will determine page counts once a file has been opened in its native source application. This varies from computer to computer, which is why many legal teams choose to convert ESI to image format.

    Image Review
    Once you convert ESI from native format to image format, your review is considered Image Review. Imaging consistently preserves the formatting of a native files without worrying about how a file may vary from computer to computer or system to system. However, while imaging all ESI before document review used to be a fairly standard practice, the exponential volumes of data in legal cases today has made this practice outdated and costly.Our recommendation is to begin with a Native Review and only request responsive images and redacted documents in Image Review. This is a much more efficient and cost-effective approach.
  1. Set an overall objective for the review

    The overall end goal for the document review you are performing will define the workflows your legal teams will need to follow.Consider the following questions when determining your objective:

    • Are you performing a standard document review for production?
    • Is the review for privilege?
    • Is the review for an investigation?
    • Will the case team prepare depositions or witnesses and experts?
  1. Determine how many reviewers you need and the level of review that needs to be performed

    Once you have outlined your objective, you can determine how in-depth the electronic document review needs to be. How deep will your analysis be? Will various review teams handle different tasks? Will there be different levels to the review, from the first review up to the attorney-level review?These levels will dictate how many reviewer groups and access permission levels need to be set up and using permission levels simplifies and organises workflows.These can include:

    • Full administrative rights
    • Reviewer rights with limited editing capabilities
    • Administrative rights with less restrictive permissions
  1. Determine which custom workflows and database administration tasks must be performed

    Depending on the individual need, these processes can occur before or during the review, but they must be considered. Each of these tasks should be considered part of your workflow, especially because they take additional time.It’s important to consider:

    • If batching will be implemented
    • If reviewer batch sets must be created
    • The level of quality control that will be implemented
    • Whether custom workflow searches will take place
    • If there will be search team reports
    • If key terms need to be highlighted.
  1. Highlight the specific coding information that reviewers must capture during the review

    It is essential that legal teams plan this ahead of time. Document review platforms support this by allowing the setup of custom fields specific to the document review prior to beginning the review.Popular items for capture include:

    • Privilege
    • Responsiveness
    • Issues
    • Confidentiality
    • Redactions
  1. Determine who will need to access the review database

    In legal cases, documents will most likely need to be shared with experts, consultants and co-counsel. Therefore, it is important to determine which parties will be able to access, see, and edit documents during the review process.External parties will naturally require stricter permissions, and this will need to be appropriately managed.
  1. Know your scope

    How many documents need to be reviewed? When we consider that the average legal case in South Africa contains over 5 000 GBof data, it’s easy to see how this process that can take days or even weeks to complete. Document Review is typically the most expensive part of the eDiscovery process. Understanding your scope from the beginning of the process will help you to maintain and even reduce costs along the way.
  1. Access advance technologies to expedite your review

    There are incredible tools available to expedite your document review process. These include:

    • Email threading
    • Near-duplicate detection
    • Categorisation
    • Predictive coding
  1. Budget adequate time to accommodate unforeseen variables

    Many issues can crop up during the electronic document review process. Limited resources, limited client budgets, complicated review workflows and even a lack of planning can derail your timelines, resulting in delays or even missed deadlines. Plan properly upfront, but include a time buffer as well.

Conducting successful electronic document reviews

Electronic document review itself is not complicated thanks to the sophisticated tools and platforms available to legal teams today. However, a successful document review is also achieved when the correct objective and strategy is defined, and firm workflows are in place. Each of these steps are critical in achieving cost-effective and efficient workflows.